at Folsom Field • Sept. 16 • 5 p.m. (MT) • TBS
Head Coach: Dirk Koetter (6th season)
2006 Record: 2-0
The Sun Devils sport a potent passing attack that's averaged 304 yards per outing (9th in the country) in ASU's wins over Northern Arizona and Nevada. ASU likes the long ball, as the receiving corps' 11.26 yards per attempt attests. (In contrast, CU is averaging 4.89 yards per pass attempt). Sophomore quarterback Rudy Carpenter was thrust into the spotlight in 2005 when he took over for injured starter Sam Keller. Carpenter started five games and led the nation in pass efficiency. He eventually won the starting spot from Keller in August, prompting Keller to transfer to Nebraska.
Arizona State replaced some bigtime receivers from last year's squad this fall. So far, wideout Rudy Burgess (who's also played tailback and returner) leads the team with nine receptions. Carpenter will also throw to his tight end and running backs.
So far, the Sun Devils' running game hasn't matched the explosiveness or consistency of the passing attack, but leading rusher, JC transfer Ryan Torain, is averaging over 6 yards a pop.
Player to Watch: TE Zach Miller (a Playboy Preseason All-American) is a big, physical target with wheels, and among the best tight ends in the country.
Arizona State struggled defensively in 2005, but lots of new faces on that side of the ball — including six players who earned their first start this fall — have folks in Tempe thinking the unit might be able to hold up its end of the bargain as the Sun Devils' try and crack the top tier of the Pac-10. Colorado can expect the Sun Devils' to bring a lot of pressure Saturday, both because that's ASU's current defensive identity and because junior Bernard Jackson will likely start only the second game in his career at quarterback for CU. ASU currently leads the nation with 13 sacks. ASU has fared well against two quarterbacks in its first two games with running skills, but neither match what Jackson can do.
Twice this season, a Sun Devil defender has taken an interception back for a touchdown.
Really, the Buffs have yet to get their running or passing games untracked. The ASU defense has probably yet to be seriously tested, but the Buffs will have to display more than potential Saturday if they want to score on this bunch.
ASU 2006 Statistical Leaders
PASSING: Rudy Carpenter 34-50-596, 7 TD, 2 INT
RUSHING: Ryan Torain 13-83/6.4, 1 TD
RECEIVING: Rudy Burgess 9-153/17.0
TACKLES: Derron Ware 18
SACKS: Derron Ware 4
INT: Michael Marquardt 2
PUNTING: Jonathan Johnson 46.6
PR: Terry Richardson 12.9
KOR: Chris McGaha 21.0
NOTES: If you didn't know already, CU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich served as the passing game coordinator (2003-05) and quarterbacks coach (2001-05) at ASU under Koetter. Does Helfrich have an advantage, knowing ASU's personnel and tendencies? Do the Sun Devils' have the upper hand, having a feel for Helfrich? We'll see if this plays into the game. …The Sun Devils have three players on their squad who prepped at Colorado. They include a couple players the Buffs recruited, cornerback Grant Crunkleton (Mullen) and tailback Shaun DeWitty (Doherty). DeWitty has a combined (rushing and receiving) 112 yards, and two touchdowns through two games. Also from Colorado is senior receiver Jamaal Lewis (Rampart). Lewis has been reinstated to the team and will travel to Colorado after serving a two-game suspension. The 6-4, 229-pounder played tight end last season and led the nation among tight ends in yards per catch (19.6).
Prediction: Arizona State hasn't yet played a defense as good as CU's. While the Buffs haven't fared so well against the pass — ASU's strength — they'll show improvement in that area Saturday. Meanwhile, CU is 6th in the country in run defense, allowing just .94 yards per carry.
The biggest concern for CU, however, is on offense. Aside from the first series in the loss to CSU, the Buffs have yet to find a rhythm running or passing. We'll probably see some improvements in both, but it won't be enough.
Arizona State 20, Colorado 16